We have a houseguest for a week. She’s come to Salt Lake to do research on African and Native Americans and the LDS Church, to read original diaries that aren’t available online just yet. On our drive home from the airport, I was reminded that it’s only been recent history in our country that nonwhites could own land and property, and that black history/property rights in Utah is extra fascinating.
There were blacks that came to Utah on the famous pioneer trek (I didn’t know that) and, according to historians, at least three of them were not slaves. That means they could own property. One of the first black families to arrive in Utah was the James family. They were certainly one of the first black landowners in the state, as the archives (Utah.gov) report that in 1865 their real estate and personal property were valued at $1,100.22.
Move the clock forward to the 1900s. According to an article written by Ronald G. Coleman, “Blacks in Utah History: An Unknown Legacy,” “Salt Lake City commissioners in 1939 received a petition with 1000 signatures asking that Blacks living in Salt Lake be restricted to one residential area. This area would be located away from the City & County Building where visitors to the city would not come in contact with a sizable number of blacks. The petition was initialed by Sheldon Brewster, a Realtor and Bishop of a Mormon ward. Brewster employed a local black in the attempt to persuade blacks to sell their houses and agree to be colonized in one location, but he failed to secure their action.”
The petition did not pass the City Commission, but Utah racists won out by creating what was known to the real-estate business as a “Form 30 clause.” This was specific wording put into real-estate contracts and onto actual property deeds upon the request of the property owner:
The buyer, his heirs, executors, administrators, successors, or assigns agree that no estate in possession of the said premises shall be sold, transferred granted, or conveyed to any person not of the Caucasian race.
The Form 30 Clause was used a few years later as a patriotic action by Americans during WWII, when property owners ran to their local Recorder’s office after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and put wording onto their deeds that basically said, “This property cannot ever, ever, ever be sold to anyone of Japanese descent.”
So, until recently, it was OK to write into your property deed that your home could not be sold to a black, an Asian, a Native American, Hispanic, etc. Restrictive language like this was ruled unconstitutional in 1948, but that doesn’t mean it automatically fell off the legal paperwork on file with County Recorder offices throughout the state. It is completely illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental and the financing of dwellings and other housing-related transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and handicap. This statement was put into law with the 1968 Civil Rights Act of 1968 (known as the Fair Housing Act).
Now, if such discriminatory language is found on a deed, it is automatically removed by the title company before the property is transferred.
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